Wrapped in their plastic cases, the jokers bells
Jingle in my pocket. I take the two packs
Out and set them on my couch; choosing blue,
Not knowing why, I slip my nail under the
Gold strip, ready to undress them.
Unfurling the golden belt I peel away
The cellophane coat to get to the centre.
Pocket by pocket, half by half
I split the shell into its parts;
Still keeping suit, their form holds where they cupped my cards.
Still, seeing a seal on the cardboard packet
I ease the lid from its slumped position
And gently lift it’s head upwards until
The mouth opens and lets out a thwack.
Inside the box I see its second self:
Coated in yet more shiny and delicate
Cellophane, giving nothing away. In
Anticipation of my next move the
Cardboard ears pop up at the command of
My thumbs. The hand is held as I go
All in and my hot fingers gristle like tissue.
I have reached the linen finish,
The stack of fifty-two and take the
First card to see who is top of the pack.
Without bluffing I see my downbeat
Reflection and the laughing joker.
Dropping the card back in its place,
Feels like plopping a stone in a pond,
The surface glides and shifts in tectonic measure
Jutting my paper reflection out of place.
With my other hand, and a new
Paper cut, I return the cards to their sheath.
My hands tremble as they turn to red
Cards, I throw the plastic on the floor and snap
The head of the box back in quick succession.
I cut and fold and dummy shuffle;
This time I’m determined to turn up trumps.
My knuckles crack against my skin,
I click my neck, crack my back.
I cut the pack, clasp the arched bridge
Then watch the cards flush like a crimson waterfall.
My thumbs press down as the pouring stops
And slides the surface back together
Un-rippling the pool, lowering the stakes.
I spread the cards out like lilies and plunge
My hand under and choose a single number.
Before I turn it over I close my eyes
And hold my breath for the hand my dealer has dealt.
The joker has had his way. Now it’s my turn to play.
by Robert Ferns,